Screen Printing - June/July 2018 - 29
Architectural glass, whether involving subtle gradations [left] or ornate designs [right], are a large but highly specialized market in glass printing.
Left, © Getty Images; right, courtesy of Wim Zoomer.
printing functions in house (sometimes inline) as part of their
processes, and specialist print businesses supplying components. Both functional and decorative applications present
sizeable opportunities for the glass industry, as an increasing
number of glass components and products integrate printing.
PRINTING PROCESS DEVELOPMENTS
Technology breakthroughs have played a big part in the growth
of glass printing. Suppliers have developed new equipment that
widens the applications, with new inks, coatings, and functional fluids providing advanced properties of flexibility, adhesion,
and durability, together with novel capabilities in electronics
and biomedical to perform specific actions. These developments were driven by, and also enabled, truly transformative
innovations in everything from smartphones to solar cells.
While analog printing methods - gravure, flexo, litho,
screen, pad printing, and foiling - are still widely used, there
is very strong growth in digital methods, with new inkjet inks
and fluids opening many opportunities.
Gravure, screen, pad printing, and foiling are perfectly
adequate for many of the long-established applications in
which they are used. In producing a beer stein or sheet of
exterior architectural glass, the printing is a small component
of the process and often the decoration will be integrated in
the manufacturing line. In a changeover, manipulating the
print setup is generally a lot simpler than changing the product to be manufactured. The required skillset for this type of
printing is probably less than in commercial print or packaging; prepress production is often outsourced with screens,
plates, and cylinders brought in as required and reused over
many years. The management of the industrial plant will
concentrate on improving the methods of making the product
rather than the intricacies of print technology. There is also
much activity in developing routes to market, for print suppliers and equipment manufacturers as well as for the associated consumables.
GLASS PRINTING MARKETS
Printing colorants (chiefly through screen printing technology) has, over time, become a lower-cost alternative for glass
decoration. Interior architectural glass, mirrors, and gaming
machines are printed using organic inks, both solvent and
UV curable. Exterior and dishwasher-proof glass tends to use
inorganic inks and enamels that contain pigments, glass frits,
solvent-based binding agents, and additives. After printing, the
ink is cured in a lehr at around 1110 F (for enamels) to fuse the
printed layer to the glass surface for a permanent finish.
The overall demand for flat glass, produced by float techniques, is dependent on construction and rose 7.1 percent in
2015-2016 to 99 billion square feet, some 70-75 million tons.
Asia is the biggest and fastest growing glass market, accounting for 60 percent of all flat glass by area - though obviously,
much of this is unprinted. Fabricated flat glass demand
will benefit from rapid growth in sales of energy efficient
products, such as solar control, insulation, and low-emissivity
By 2022, glass printing is forecasted to reach a market value
of around $1.3 billion and have a compound annual growth
rate (CAGR) of seven percent from 2017-2022. Screen printing
is widely used to print onto flat and hollow glass. Glass producer Pilkington sells screen-printed glass for use in partitions,
roof glazing, and external walls, while there are many specialist decorators who print glass they source. Screen printing can
lay down heavy deposits of colored inks and specialist coatings
that provide dramatic decorative effects or simpler designs for
privacy or solar control.
JUNE / JULY 2018